Recently, we went through the hiring process to hire a new assistant (after our previous assistant became our Archivist.) This lead me to have some advice about job hunting and libraries, though a fair number of the general ideas here are also relevant outside of libraries.
Here’s what I want in a cover letter (mileage may vary for other people reading them, but many of the things here are also true for other people I know.) I should also note that every example here was done by more than one person in our hiring pool.
1) Apply for the job we’re hiring for.
2) Show me you understand what this job does.
3) Show me you’ve done a bit of research about the institution.
4) Tell me why you’re interested in this particular job.
5) Answer any obvious questions posed by your background.
Continue reading Cover letters
One of the things I knew I wanted to do once I was hired for the awesome new job was to write up my thoughts and (general) experiences about the current state of library job hunting.
In the links below, I focus on aspects of job hunting that are specific to libraries. I should note clearly that I was looking at college/university libraries, independent school libraries, and public libraries, but not public schools (I don’t hold a teaching license) or special libraries (corporate, medical, etc.)
- Retrospective :: an overview of my background going into this hunt, and of things I think especially helped me in my search.
- My process, part 1 :: how I handled the actual process of applying, up to writing the cover letter.
- My process, part 2 :: cover letters to interviews.
- Library job hunt quirks: Networking
- Library job hunt quirks: Applying
- Library job hunt quirks: Clothing
- Library job hunt quirks: Interviews
- Library job hunt quirks: Bits and pieces (timelines, interview trips, asking questions.)
This is mostly about my experience, based on a lot of reading (both within the field and outside it), my experiences, and my conversations with various colleagues, lists, and other resources.
In fact, this isn’t so much ‘advice’ as ‘here’s some stuff to be aware of, so you can make better informed decisions about what you want to do.’ Doing this stuff doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a job (it’s a really tough market). I do hope, however, it’ll help you figure out some things that might make your own search easier, give you more questions to research, or otherwise get you further along your way.
This final section of my library job hunting quirks posts wraps up a few shorter bits and pieces, namely:
- Timelines (and why library searches often take forever.)
- Interview trips and who pays.
- Asking questions.
- (And you can always go back to the index)
Continue reading Library job quirks: bits and pieces
Standard job hunting advice says “Wear a suit. Unless you’re a programmer/coder.”
That really ought to say “And libraries are complicated, too.” In every single job but one that I actually interviewed on site for, a suit would have been far too formal, in ways that would almost certainly have indicated that I wasn’t picking up on important cultural cues.
It is different if you’re looking at upper library management of a large library, a school that has a dress code, or something like that – but most of the time, suits are too much. (The one exception was a for-profit college, and they were explicit about students dressing for classes as they would in a formal business environment setting.)
(as always with this series, you can also get to the index.)
Continue reading Library job quirks: clothing
Many parts of the basic process are not that different from other jobs – you will want a well-polished resume (and if you’re going for academic positions, perhaps a CV, especially if you have publications, presentations, etc. to your name) and a great cover letter.
A variety of people willing to be references also helps – I picked who I listed for a particular application (when requested) based on the focus of the job, as one of my references was a longtime past manager, another was a teacher I’d done significant collaborative work with, one was a colleague with a strong technology background (and who could speak to mine in detail), one was someone I’d done a lot of diversity-related work with, and another was a past manager in a complex ongoing volunteer role.
But there are also some odd quirks.
Below are things I’ve been asked for (more than once!) by various jobs:
Continue reading Library job hunt quirks: applying
I found, during my search, that there was some really good advice out there, but there were places where the common (really good) advice just doesn’t match the reality of a library job search very well.
Here’s my thoughts on the places it’s different. (And I welcome comments on my blog in general, but I’d really love them here, from other people in the field.) Index of posts is over here.
Many job hunting advice sources advise you to network in a particular way – ask people you know about openings at their company, or network with the assumption that if they don’t hire you for *this* job, there’ll be another similar one along in a few months. (For example, many businesses might have several people with the same basic job duties, so people do come and go somewhat regularly.)
Libraries don’t generally work that way. Neither do schools.
Continue reading Library job hunt quirks: networking
This part of my series thinking about my job hunt is going to focus on how I actually handled the process and mechanics. I’m breaking this into two sections: the part before writing the cover letter, and everything after that.
You can see the full index of posts over here.
Continue reading Library job hunt : my process
This section talks about interview prep for academic library jobs in particular. The short version? Expect a really long day.
Continue reading Library job hunt quirks: the interview